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"The Cross: Peace over Violence"

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  • Christopher Orr
    The Cross: Peace over Violence by Fr. Jonathan Tobias on the Second Terrace blog
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 24 8:50 AM
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      "The Cross: Peace over Violence" by Fr. Jonathan Tobias on the Second
      Terrace blog

      http://janotec.typepad.com/terrace/2013/04/the-cross-peace-over-violence.html

      the odd expectation

      In Great Lent, we are in a season when the faithful seek the Holy
      Mystery of Confession, and it is this time of year when a special
      problem emerges. And that is the issue of Penance. What I mean here is
      not the positive problem of a spiritual father helping the penitent
      with a penance that will aid him in his theosis -- that is really the
      subject of another presentation.

      No: what I am concerned with is the strange expectation of penance by
      the penitent. Sometimes, the penitent might even ask for a more severe
      penance if he thinks the therapy suggested by the priest is too
      lenient.

      Of course, such an expectation and demand for hard penance is
      completely contrary to Orthodox Tradition, let alone the fact that it
      indicates a spiritual problem the Latins like to call
      “over-scrupulosity.”

      But we are left with the nagging impression, here, that this is a sign
      of an even larger problem. In this odd expectation of punishment,
      there seems to be the trace of a deeper expectation that sin is
      something that should be paid for and balanced out … that there is
      Someone Who needs to be appeased, or “propitiated” … that Someone or
      something needs “satisfied” … that some sort of “payment” needs paid,
      in order to stave off some sort of impending doom or disorder, or
      disaster -- in a word, inescapable Wrath.

      substitutionary atonement

      Today, I would like to talk about about this persistent idea that the
      sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was such a “satisfaction.”

      In Orthodoxy, we have generally blamed Anselm as the one most
      responsible for this doctrine of “satisfaction” -- namely, the
      doctrine of “substitutionary atonement.” In his work Cur Deus Homo,
      this eleventh century Benedictine writing in Canterbury asserted that
      every single sin is an infinite violation of God’s honor. This
      violation puts the sinner in infinite debt to God. The debt is too
      much for a sinner to pay, obviously. The only way that this infinite
      debt could be paid is by the coming of a Redeemer, Whose absolute
      purity could discharge the debt of humanity.

      Hence, the title of Anselm’s work -- Cur Deus Homo, which means “Why
      the God-Man?” It could only be the God-Man Who could Redeem and
      satisfy the debt of human sin.

      The Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky, singles out Anselm as the
      locus where Western theology massively moves away from the patristic
      understanding of the atonement, and turns toward a more legalistic,
      juridical view of salvation. It is interesting that David Bentley
      Hart, in his difficult book The Beauty of the Infinite, takes Lossky
      to task for taking Anselm out of context, and for failing to
      acknowledge the fact that Anselm is completely Trinitarian in his
      argument.

      Hart is right, to a degree. Anselm is clear that the sacrifice of the
      Cross is a gift that exceeds every debt. Nothing remains “unpaid for.”
      Hart tries too hard, I think, to renovate Anselm’s theory of
      substitutionary atonement. His attempt to re-read Anselm’s argument is
      more of a re-interpretation than an explanation.

      metaphor mistaken for substance

      Contrary to Hart’s best efforts, Anselm’s argument is made in language
      that is strange to the ears of Eastern theology and remains so. His
      words are not so much juridical as they are commercial. The terms of
      “debt” and “redemption” are terms of the marketplace. And one rightly
      wonders whether these words were used in Scripture mainly as secondary
      terms, where the Apostles and the Lord Himself were using figures of
      speech to describe a reality that was, after all, un-describable.

      This, I think, was Lossky’s main problem with Anselm. In general, the
      Eastern Orthodox critique of all western theories of the Cross and
      Redemption have to do with language. Theologians like Lossky,
      Staniloae, Romanides -- in his inimitably strident manner -- and even
      Hart himself have noticed a repeated problem in western theology. What
      may have been meant as a descriptive term in Scripture is frequently
      taken, in western discourse, as a reality itself. Thus, when a
      courtroom setting is used by St Paul in his epistle to the Romans,
      western theology envisions God as Judge, Jesus as Defense Attorney,
      and the Devil as the DA (in Perry Mason), the prosecuting attorney who
      is arguing for the State.

      To take an even more telling, and historic, example: when the lake of
      fire is used to describe perdition in eternity, western theology
      concludes that this fire is a creation made by God. This error in
      interpretation became a momentous point of discussion in the tragic
      Council of Florence in the fifteenth century.

      Clearly, Anselm’s argument suffers from not a few difficulties. Chief
      among them is this error of interpretation. But just as problematic is
      the simple question: just who is the debt to be paid to? And why does
      God simply not forgive the debt, just like he did in the Parable of
      the Unjust Servant? After all, isn’t this parable the source of all
      these commercial terms in the first place -- terms that were so
      appealing to Anselm?

      Of course, this leads us back to the question which should afflict us
      all -- even after today’s presentation, you should always wonder about
      this. I don’t mind in the least that you should be skeptical about my
      argument: I, for one, think that it is a good exercise to hold answers
      in abeyance, and allow deep theological questions to lurk in the
      mental corners.

      The particular question at hand is this: “Why couldn’t God just forget
      about sin and let it go?”

      the violence of penal substitution

      This is the central question that compelled the attention of not only
      Anselm, but certainly all the Fathers who thought about Redemption. It
      also become the critical occasion in which western theology displayed
      some of its most egregious moments, in which it revealed a closer
      affinity to the violent narratives of this world rather than to the
      infinitely peaceful narrative of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      I am thinking here, primarily, of the doctrine that Lossky was
      reallycomplaining about, as opposed to his beating up on poor Anselm.
      Instead of the commercial doctrine of substitutionary atonement --
      that one can lay at the feet of Augustine just as readily as that of
      Anselm -- Lossky and the Orthodox critique are really complaining
      about the Reformed Doctrine of Penal Substitution.

      This is the theory that Christ was punished (or penalized) in the
      place of sinners. He was “substituted” in their place, thus
      “satisfying” the demands of justice so that God can justly forgive
      their sins.

      Let us be fair to Anselm here and not blame him for this argument. To
      be sure, this doctrine is a derivative of “substitutionary atonement,”
      but it is really the work of the Protestant Reformation, especially
      from the lawyerly pen of John Calvin.

      It is not hard to understand. It emerges quite readily out of the
      common human experience of a hard, darksome world. One example ought
      to confirm the ubiquitous expectation of “penal substitution.” One
      need look no further, surprisingly, than the pen of Mark Twain.

      In his engaging tale of “The Prince and the Pauper,” there is a minor
      character who assists the hero, Tom, in his task of posing as Prince
      Edward. The character is a “whipping boy.” The job of the “whipping
      boy” was to take the place of the Prince whenever corporal punishment
      was doled out by the tutor.

      In effect, the “whipping boy” was an innocent substitute who took the
      penalty instead of the one who deserved it. Hence, “penal
      substitution.”

      In this theory there is a suggested answer to the question “Why
      couldn’t God just forget about it?” The answer would be, intriguingly,
      that God cannot neglect the demands of justice, without contravening
      His nature of perfect justice.

      It is not difficult to critique this view, and one certainly must do
      so if he is faithful to the apostolic and Orthodox tradition. While
      later on, in the more positive second half of this presentation, we
      will meditate upon the narrative of the Sacrifice of Christ in Holy
      Tradition, permit me to briefly note a few of the problems that emerge
      from this theory of Penal Substitution.

      Let us consider, right off the bat, that this doctrine is the default
      belief of heterodox American Christianity. Just a few weeks ago, in
      the Western observance of Easter, it is this argument that lay as the
      basis for almost every sermon about what happened on Good Friday.

      First: there is the notion that Divine Wrath is a passion that is
      provoked by human sin, and that “necessitates” a response by God.
      Human sin makes “necessary” God’s anger, and that anger must be
      completely expressed.

      This notion obviously puts God under necessity of provocation -- a
      thing that cannot be done if God is God: the divine nature is always,
      completelyfree. This notion also imposes a very human -- indeed, a
      fallen human -- character of anger upon divine nature.

      Second: there is the notion that punishment actually is able to
      satisfy the demands of justice. Who said, after all, that the
      punishment of a criminal can adequately repair the damage of the
      crime? This, I know, resonates with the very contemporary discussion
      of the penal system in jurisprudence -- but that is precisely my
      point. If there remains some skepticism about the effectiveness of the
      penitentiary in secular law, how much more should we question the
      place of penal punishment in the realm of theology?

      Third: there is the notion that somehow, the Son puts Himself in
      opposition to the Father, as the One who “becomes sin” as a
      substitute, and thus places Himself at the locus of punishment that
      must come. On the other hand, the Father directs His “just” wrath
      against His Son. He unleashes a tempest of infinite pain upon the
      crucified victim, who falls under the aggregate weight of all the
      penalty of all the sin of the ages.

      And finally, at the extremity of His dereliction, Jesus cries out “My
      God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

      And in this theory of penal substitution, the interpretation is that,
      indeed, God the Father had forsaken His Son.

      not forsaken

      St Athanasios is quick to lay this notion to rest. In his work, the
      Discourse Against the Arians, Athanasios asserts the divinity of the
      Son to his opponents and emphasizes the unity between the Father and
      the Son.

      Here is what he said about those terrible, heartbreaking words of
      Jesus on the Cross:

      “Neither can the Lord be forsaken by the Father, [the Lord] Who is
      ever in the Father.”

      It is interesting that Athanasios wrote this in the context of an
      argument against the Arians. I say it is interesting because it seems
      to me that there is at least a latent Arianism running through this
      notion of the Father and the Son being placed on opposite sides of a
      penal exchange of justice.

      In Orthodox Holy Tradition, the peaceful, beautiful fellowship of the
      Holy Trinity remains unbounded, unchecked and uninterrupted -- even at
      the extremity of the Cross.

      And, I might add, especially at the extremity of the Cross.

      Knowledge of the Trinity as peace and beauty is established at that
      horrible singularity of sin and death -- at the Cross, and all the way
      down to the extreme dereliction of Hades, where Jesus in His human
      soul proclaims the lightning, dawning truth in the darkness that He
      has completed assumed and transfigured sin and death.

      When Scripture says, as it does, that Jesus became sin for us, it did
      not do so in the sense that Jesus became the criminal and the sufferer
      of penalty. In 2 Corinthians 5.21, a favorite reference of John Calvin
      and Charles Hodge, St Paul writes "For our sake he made him to be sin
      who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of
      God." In this sense, Jesus did not become sin essentially. Instead,
      the sense here is that he completely assumed the full measure of the
      aggregate consequence of sin -- the terrible, horrifying aspect of all
      the cost, all the pain of all sin for all time.

      And Jesus did not do so so that He might become the single “convict,”
      Who alone would go to the gallows.

      Jesus assumed the burden of sin for all time so that, by His death, it
      would be loosed for all time.

      In the western narratives, Jesus was envisioned as the substitute
      “whipping boy” for humanity.

      But in Orthodox Holy Tradition, there is no doubt that there was a
      whipping and a hanging tree.

      But it wasn’t God doing the whipping.

      It was sin.

      Sin carries its own grief, suffering, pain and degeneration. Every sin
      is a cloud of hell that accumulates into an entire atmosphere of
      darkness.

      It was sin.

      the persistent myth of propitiation

      St Gregory the Theologian thought deeply about the Sacrifice of the
      Cross, and about how, even in his day, opinions fractured and devolved
      about the Cross and gravitated toward violence, and away from the
      primordial peace of the Holy Trinity.

      Here are his famous words that anticipate, rather spookily, the likes
      of Anselm and even Calvin:

      We must now examine the question and the dogma so often passed over in
      silence, but which (I think) demands no less deep study. To whom was
      that blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed? I mean
      the precious and glorious blood of God, the blood of the High Priest
      and of the Sacrifice. We were in bondage to the devil and sold under
      sin, having become corrupt through our concupiscence. Now, since a
      ransom is paid to him who holds us in his power, I ask to whom such a
      price was offered and why? If to the devil it is outrageous! The
      robber receives the ransom, not only from God, but a ransom consisting
      of God Himself. He demands so exorbitant a payment for his tyranny
      that it would have been right for him to have freed us altogether. But
      if the price is offered to the Father, I ask first of all, how? For it
      was not the Father who held us captive. Why then should the blood of
      His only begotten Son please the Father, who would not even receive
      Isaac when he was offered as a whole burnt offering by Abraham, but
      replaced the human sacrifice with a ram? It is not evident that the
      Father accepts the sacrifice not because He demanded it or because He
      felt any need for it, but on account of economy: because man must be
      sanctified by the humanity of God, and God Himself must deliver us by
      overcoming the tyrant through His own power, and drawing us to Himself
      by the mediation of the Son who effects this all for the honour of
      God, to whom He was obedient in everything … What remains to be said
      shall be covered with reverent silence …

      -- St Gregory of Nazianzen, Holy Pascha, oration XLV, cited in
      Lossky,Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p153; also cited in
      Pomazansky,Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, p204

      the persistence of violent exchange

      Unfortunately, these words could not hold back the tide of opinion
      that sought, all too eager, the ancient ways of violent sacrifice as
      opposed to the self-sacrifice that brought forth sanctification.

      Let us look more deeply at this persistent belief in this mythical
      necessity to appease. Let us see if we can discern its genealogy, to
      see if we can figure out from when it comes.

      Just a while ago, I mentioned that this theory seems to emerge out of
      the common human experience in a dark, hardened world. Usually, when
      we think of ideas that are the stuff of “common sense” and common
      experience, we usually confer validity just for that reason.

      If everyone thinks it, because everyone has felt it, then it must be
      true, right?

      Everyone has experienced the world in such a way that there seems to
      be an inescapable, necessary sequence of events. First you do
      something bad. Then, if you don’t do something to ward off the bad
      karma, then something equally bad will happen to you.

      Every action provokes an equal (or more than equal) reaction.

      Your bad act has introduced an imbalance into the cosmos, and if you
      don’t perform some act of appeasing propitiation, then you are going
      to get paid back.

      So depending on what culture you hail from, there are a lot of various
      ways to accomplish this. If you are an Aztec ruler and wish to keep
      your city safe from plague and fire, then you need to offer up a
      certain number of human sacrifices. If you are the Theban King Creon,
      then the cost of your hubris is the death of your noble daughter
      Antigone: this is the price of the gods for balance to be restored. If
      you are an average Christian, then each sin has a bill to be paid -- a
      penalty, or “penance,” to be determined by the relative severity of
      the sin.

      This is all predicated on a deep, deep bedrock myth that lies at the
      foundation of western culture -- and that is the myth that the city,
      the center of human culture, must be founded upon the cult of
      sacrificial violence.

      And that, in turn, is because -- according to the narratives of the
      world in general, not just in the West -- literally all narratives are
      based on violence, upon the succession of one domineering power waging
      violence upon the less powerful.

      A fragile balance must be sustained, warily, between the human city
      and the dark, chaotic environs outside the city. Culture has its
      price. The weak are the common, everyday sacrifice to appease the
      angry gods -- whether these gods are believed in or not, whether or
      not they have religious names or, as they are nowadays, given
      scientific and political names.

      But once in a while, when the imbalance demands it, a princess like
      Antigone, or a celebrity, or a politician, is demanded. And
      occasionally, even entire populations, indeed, millions of people, are
      offered up in holocaust on the altar of sheer domination and violent
      pride.

      the violent city of totality

      You should be skeptical about this line of thinking, because it is not
      self-evident. Nevertheless, according to Nietzsche and many of the
      post-moderns, this theme of the violent interplay between Apollo, the
      god of order, and Dionysios, the god of disorder and the ecstatic
      darkness is inescapable. It is the “meta-narrative.” It is the single
      story of the world in its totality.

      Sacrifice exists, they say, and so, indeed, does Attic tragedy in
      classical Greece and the whole world’s pre-Christian heroic
      literature: sacrifice exists because power must be appeased, and it
      must be appeased violently.

      I think we might be able to detect this sort of sacrifice in the Bible
      itself. Not at the Cross, nor at the offering of Isaac by Abraham, nor
      even in any of Israel’s long history of cultic sacrifice, especially
      at Yom Kippur.

      No, I’m thinking of the very first recorded sacrifice in Genesis. I’m
      thinking of Cain, of course, the elder brother. We read, in the
      Septuagint, that “on Cain and on his offerings God was not intent”
      (Genesis 4.5 LXX). His sacrifice was not accepted. It remained a
      meaningless offering. It was a sacrifice that was of the order of
      “vain repetition,” as Someone would say centuries later.

      What was wrong with the sacrifice of Cain? What was wrong with his
      religion? He had the right God, after all -- or did he? Is it not the
      case that your religion is determinative of your belief, and your
      belief directs your prayer either to the true God, or an idol?

      In any case, God did not accept the sacrifice of Cain, St Cyprian of
      Carthage suggests, simply because Cain did not offer it in peace and
      innocence. Even though the sacrifice was agricultural, which was
      viewed later on in Israel as secondary, still, the main problem was
      that the sacrifice was not offered as agift. It was offered as
      commerce, ultimately as an appeasement, or propitiation.

      It was offered as the first of a long, tragic tradition of violent
      sacrifices, offered to a God of omnipotence, perhaps, but a God whose
      nature was not good, whose beauty was not wedded to peace. A
      terrifying, majestic God to be sure, replete with themes of power and
      violence, fates and furies, determinisms and deterministic
      pre-destinations and a complete effacement of human liberty and
      responsibility. It would be an aristocratic theology that would be at
      the beck and call of the movers and shakers of all the world’s
      kingdoms. It would provide the necessary myth and narrative to
      rationalize power and wealth, privilege and libertinism for the
      fortunate few who lived in the suburbs of Olympus.

      Later on, we’re told, Cain moved to the land east of Eden, where he
      built a city -- a tragic consequence of fratricide, the murder of his
      brother Abel. It is always interesting to call to mind the haunting
      fact that Rome, too, was built not in a day, but on the blood of
      violent sacrifice. Romulus slew his brother Remus, simply because the
      latter had the bad sense to step over a border, a line written in the
      sand.

      History has not changed this simple, tragic and ironic script. And it
      won’t in the future, either. “There will be wars and rumors of wars,”
      Someone said, centuries later, “These things must come to pass.”

      And that, in a hard, simplistic generalization, is the very
      “unOrthodox” history of the world.

      the One Story

      Orthodoxy is opposed to this terrible meta-narrative. This hard
      generalization, this meta-narrative is the cosmology of the
      “totality,” as our post-modern friends might say.

      Our job in Traditional Orthodoxy is to remember and speak clearly the
      one Story that can bring the gates of totality crashing down.

      And that One Story is obviously the Gospel.

      “Totality,” if you remember, is the city that is built on violent
      sacrifice -- a city that Cain first established.

      Remember, too, the fact that along with Cain’s sacrifice, there was another.

      Abel offered a lamb, the firstfruit of his flock. Yes, indeed, this
      lamb anticipated, like all the other sacrificial lambs of the Old
      Testament religion, the one perfect sacrifice of the Cross.

      And like the Cross, Abel’s sacrifice became the symbol of the gift of
      himself. It was not a mere representation of himself, but a symbolic
      sacrifice that became an offering of his ego, the limitations and the
      boundaries that could possibly demarcate himself from the divine
      energies of grace.

      And as the lamb anticipated the ultimate lamb that takes away the sin
      of the world, so also did Abel’s sacrifice of self as a free gift
      anticipate the free gift of the Son of God.

      Fr Dumitru Staniloae is emphatic here: for theosis, or communion with
      God, to occur, the entrance is by way of the free surrender of self.

      … the Father, too, needed our sacrifice for the restoration of our
      communion with Him; this sacrifice was not to satisfy His honor [cv
      Anselm, Cur Deus Homo], but to open us to the communion with Him by
      denying ourselves and seeing Him in all His glory. That is why He
      offered His Son as sacrifice, because we were not able to bring this
      sacrifice.

      -- Fr Dumitru Staniloae, The Person of Jesus Christ as God and Savior, p110

      This is not at all violence, but the establishment of peace -- even
      though that peace had to be looked for far beyond the contemporary
      horizons, and far into the prophetic promise of the Messiah.

      Every sacrifice in Israel was an expectation not of appeasement, but
      of eschatological promise. Every sacrifice reached out across the
      distance of Time to the one moment, at the Cross, when the glory of
      God would be revealed more brightly than it was ever revealed in the
      Ark of the Covenant, or in the shekinah glory of the Temple -- so
      writes St Isaac of Syria.

      The glory of the Cross was the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son
      of God Who was also the Son of Man. At the Cross, He is the Second
      Adam Who repaired and retold the human story according to its
      original, natural beauty.

      His entire Gospel, incarnate life was a self-sacrifice that we are
      fond of calling “kenosis,” the “pouring out of self.”

      It is interesting -- and supremely important -- to remember that this
      kenosis is the same design and movement as the “perichoresis” of each
      Person of the Trinity.

      At the Cross, the prophetic sacrifice of Abel is completely and
      overwhelmingly fulfilled. At the Cross, the sacrifice of Christ is of
      a nature that is completely different from the man-made traditions of
      violent sacrifice: this One Sacrifice is the new history -- really a
      new creation -- of peace and beauty. At the Cross the Sacrifice of
      Jesus Christ is a free, victorious gift of peace and theosis: it is
      the Trinitarian gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, and the
      beautiful, heartbreaking call of the Shepherd to His sheep, to walk
      the paths of righteousness.

      Please permit me to read a particularly rhapsodic passage of David
      Bentley Hart. He writes so well of the continual, indivisible work of
      the Trinity in the particularities of history -- and at no time does
      history become more particular than at the horrible singularity of the
      Crucifixion -- a singularity that the infinite beauty of the Trinity,
      in its inimitable mystery of grace, completely overwhelms and turns
      the Cross from an ugly imperial symbol of torture into the only sign
      that unites power with grace, meekness with majesty, sovereignty with
      servanthood.

      All this is united in the Gospel inversion of the Cross. And here is
      David Bentley Hart on how the Cross is the inauguration of the “peace
      that passes understanding”:

      And this is our salvation: for when the infinite outpouring of the
      Father in the Son, in the joy of the Spirit, enters our reality, the
      apatheia of God's eternally dynamic and replete life of love consumes
      every pathos in its ardor; even the ultimate extreme of the kenosis of
      the Son in time -- crucifixion -- is embraced within and overcome by
      the everlasting kenosis of the divine life. Because divine apatheia is
      the infinite interval of the going forth of the Son from the Father in
      the light of the Spirit, every interval of estrangement we fabricate
      between ourselves and God -- sin, ignorance, death itself -- is always
      already exceeded in him: God has always gone infinitely further in his
      own being as the God of self-outpouring charity than we can venture in
      our attempts to escape him, and our most abysmal sin is as nothing to
      the abyss of divine love. And as the Word possesses this trinitarian
      impassibility in his eternal nature, and so as God cannot change or
      suffer, as a man he can suffer all things, bear any wound -- indeed,
      bear it more fully than any other could, in absolute depth -- not as
      wrath or defeat but as an act of saving love: as Easter.

      -- David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, p359

      whipping boy or sin-eater

      There is another story, too, that anticipates the Cross. It is more
      than a little different from the Whipping Boy of The Prince and the
      Pauper. This one comes from 18th century England, in some of the
      out-of-the-way rural districts. It is a quite horrible superstitious
      tradition: at the death of a loved one, the family would prepare the
      body and lay the departed upon the table in the house. They would cut
      a piece of bread and lay the bread upon the chest of the departed.
      They would then leave the house and put this superstitious tradition
      into action.

      There would be an individual in the village who lived on the
      “outskirts” -- literally, and more importantly, figuratively. (It is
      interesting that in uncivilized districts, the literal and figurative
      are usually a lot closer together in meaning than the more ironic
      speech of the “one city” of modernity.) Figuratively -- because this
      individual was “exiled” because of his disorderly behavior, or because
      of his criminality or disease or all of these reasons combined.

      This individual is the one who would be called for to come into the
      house of the recently dead. He would enter the house, possibly say a
      few prayers, then eat the piece of bread that was left on the chest of
      the departed.

      That is why this individual was called the “sin-eater” -- it was
      believed that he would assume and take away the sins of the departed,
      through the bread.

      I suggest to you that the two understandings of the Cross that I have
      laid out to you today can be summarized by the two stories I have
      told: of the whipping-boy, and of the sin-eater.

      I suggest to you, also, that the latter story is the one much more
      akin to the Orthodox narrative of the Cross as the Trinity’s rhetoric
      of divine peace triumphing over violence.

      But the analogy between the sin-eater and Christ only goes so far. It
      stops at two places. First, when Christ “eats” or assumes all the sin
      of humanity, only He is able to completely eradicate the sin by the
      infinity of His divinity -- the tidal wave of divine kenosis, even at
      the lowest point of hell.

      And second: the bread of the sin-eater is an obvious symbol of evil
      death. Bread, in the Gospel narration of Christ, is life-giving and is
      the sacrament of eternal fellowship with the Holy Trinity. Instead of
      the sin-eater becoming sin by eating the bread, the bread of the
      Gospel becomes Christ Himself.

      * * * * * * *

      In a simple way, if one were to ask you why Jesus died on the Cross,
      you could say that it wasn't to calm down the mad Father, or to pay
      off the Devil.

      Rather, you could say that He died to pour out His life in infinite
      kenosis, so that His theosis would be infinitely available. The grain
      of wheat falls into the soil, dies, so that it might rise into the
      sunlight in infinite harvest. The Cross is transmuted into Eucharist.
      The Holy Trinity, in peace, meets the violence of the devilish world
      untroubled, and overwhelms hell with Resurrection.

      Where you and I belong.

      But that's another story, next week.
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